Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rising Action Theatre: As Bees in Honey Drown (4 reviews)

Rising Action Theatre opened its production of Douglas Carter Beane's As Bees in Honey Drown on September 9, 2011.
Douglas Carter Beane (The Little Dog Laughed, Sister Act, To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar) spins a sexy and very funny tale of a young gay writer caught in the excitement of finding a rich socialite patron, Alexa Vere de Vere.  A campy diva, who claims Auntie Mame as her chief inspiration, Alexa is a self-described promoter of British rock stars, and is now in the market for an even greater dose of fame.  When she sees a near naked photo of a young gay novelist named Evan Wyler, Alexa is certain she's found the right man to do the job.  And Evan thinks he's found his destiny fulfilled...
Avi Hoffman directed a cast that included Amy McKenna, Andrew Wind, Sahid Arnuad-Pabon, Clelia Myers, Breeza Seller, and Peter Librach.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Beane’s trenchant satire was first done in South Florida at Boca Raton’s Caldwell Theatre Company in 2000. Now Fort Lauderdale’s Rising Action Theatre is having a go, with a production directed by Avi Hoffman and starring Amy McKenna, who is (says Rising Action) the first Equity actress hired by the non-union company. Smart move.
The entertaining McKenna deftly conveys Alexa’s seductive appeal, her ability to top each lie with a better one, her cold-blooded ability to take what she wants from a victim and move on without a second thought.
Swirling around the key Alexa-Evan relationship are a host of other characters – mostly former and future Alexa victims – played by four actors. Best of the lot is Peter Librach, who plays a gay suit salesman, an angry British rocker and an artist who reveals the truth of Alexa’s geek-to-chic transformation.
The production values are a bit rag-tag... And yes, some of the references... now sound dated, given our insatiable appetite for moving on to the next trendy thing.

But in a world of manufactured “stars” – Kate Gosselin, anyone? – Alexa is an up-to-the-moment gem.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami Artzine:
Amy McKenna as the bewigged and bejeweled Alexa struts and la-de-das from scene to scene, very much the cartoonish Vere de Vere with Andrew Wind quietly providing her foil.  Many times clad only in his underwear.
Complications, in the plot and otherwise, ensue when fifteen other characters appear.  And that's where this production runs into trouble.  The supporting actors, all of whom play multiple roles, are simply not of the best, although Peter Librach has moments with his three characters.  And a bright spot:  Paul Homza's fight choreography when Evan is brutalized by British rocker Skunk (Librach).
There's a lot of laughter in this piece... but this version can't really be rated a hit.  It's a slow show, with doubtful production values and an air of tackiness throughout the evening.
Mary Damiano reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
The production, the first under the leadership of new producing director Andy Rogow, is a few cuts above the typical Rising Action fare, but is not without its own missteps.

Rogow has attracted some prestigious talent for this production, including director Avi Hoffman and actress McKenna. But even with these feathers in Rising Action’s cap, the cap is still somewhat askew.
In the first act, McKenna often stumbles over Beane’s rapid-fire dialogue, which hurts her performance as the seemingly flawless Alexa. She shines in the second act during an extended flashback scene, showing Alexa’s transformation from crass to class.
Wind is perfectly cast; his handsome, wide-eyed face is a canvas just waiting for the world to make its mark. Wind and McKenna play off each other well, his innocence and her queen bee worldliness.
Peter Librach tackles several roles admirably, but his flaming suit salesman and rough rock star wannabe do not come close to his pleasant turn in the second act as a refreshingly honest gay painter. The rest of the ensemble tries but does not make much of an impact
...the bare bones scenic design and shoddy lighting fails to transport the audience to the world of the play. The failures of these important design elements create a distance between the production and the audience, which keeps those watching from experiencing the transcendence of theater.
As Bees in Honey Drown is a good play, and while Rising Action’s production does have some redeeming qualities, it’s still not as sweet as it should be.
John Thomason supposedly reviewed for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times, but all we get to read is basically this:
As Bees in Honey Drown is a witty satire on the vagaries and temptations of fame in the late ‘90s, on the apparent necessity of personal reinvention, and on the impossible reconciliation of art and commerce. It remains compelling until the climax, even if the show’s cynicism is ultimately too softened.
The production is backed by a mostly strong ensemble and above-average sound and lighting design. Under Avi Hoffman’s guest direction, As Bees in Honey Drown is the sound of an artistically struggling theater making a significant leap forward.
That's basically it.  Oh, they tell you that Amy's playing one role, and Andrew's playing another role, but that's it.  It LOOKS like there should be more; what there is is tantalizingly well -written.  We can only assume that some drooling idiot of an editor hacked Thomason's actual review into this utterly worthless pile of shit, either out of spite, or because they hate their readers. 

As Bees in Honey Drown plays at Rising Action Theatre through October 9, 2011.

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